Category Archives: soul

While You Wait

Railroad tracks 2Remembering a local business that disappeared in the name of progress.  I can’t show you a picture, because it’s gone.  But here’s the general location, right next to the tracks where it sat before the new underpass went in. Written to share with friends at Poetic Bloomings and the dVerse Poets Pub.

 

While you wait

Before they built the underpass there was
an oil change place by the railroad crossing
on Main Street. Stuck waiting for a train?
their brazen candy-stripe sign inquired,
Have your oil changed while you wait!

and I often did, screwing up my courage
to sample their outrageously strong coffee,
thick as 10W30, hot as the devil’s arse,
while the train rattled slowly past and the
grease monkeys scampered around the bay.

One time I read a book on their table about
sibling rivalry. Another I remember staring
out the dirt-smeared window at the quietly
falling snow. I thought great thoughts there.
I decided straight-up: God loved the railroad.

But in the end not even God could help against
the wrecking ball of progress. Now I don’t wait
for trains any more. I get my oil changed in
a place with a stuffed bass on the wall.
It’s too clean. And the coffee has no soul.

 

sunrise

sunrise

 

A little poem about patience.

 

sunrise

to do the same thing over and again
expecting a different outcome
is sometimes called insanity

i call it hope

 

To share with friends over at the wonderful dVerse community.

No turning back

 

It can be a wonderful thing to belong in a group.  I know people who find great fulfilment in knowing every move to make, every word to say or avoid, every rhythm of “how we do things.”   The comfort of knowing there will be people there for you, come what may; and the knowledge that you will do the same for others – whether they ask for it or not.  The can be a comfort in conformity.

But then there are the others, the ones who struggle continually within the constraints of belonging.  The ones who live like icebergs, unwilling or unable to reveal their depths.  Or who give up and melt away.  I’ve seen it so often.  The longer I live, I find I am wistful for the belonging, for its goodness; but at the same time find I am increasingly drawn to the fringes, the rebels, the bright orange in a sea of black and blue.

 

No turning back

Someone in this sea of black and blue,
of downturned eyes, has a tattoo
on her shoulder blade – a butterfly
perhaps; better yet, a devil’s eye
that no one but her lover knows,
a secret that she never shows.

Someone in this modest fashion show
is wearing orange, brazen just below
her neckline, bursting with desire
not so much to shock as just to let the fire
within her have its head at last – finally
to be the blazing torch that she was born to be.

Someone in this close and holy space
is terrified, yet ready to depart this place
once and for all. Tonight,
after the benediction, no fight
no grand pronouncements, no bitter end.
Just a kiss, a plain embrace for every friend
and then no turning back – her fierce reward for
loosening the tight-tied strings her mother wore.

 

What if….?

I wrote this song a couple of years ago, and included it in my 2011 chapbook “answers like socks.”  The video has my performance of the song, together with photos taken in Nova Scotia and right here in Elkhart, Indiana.  The double rainbow is not a fake!  This heartfelt post goes out with love and with sorrow.  And with a lot of hope.

I am a lonely Jonah
Running from the word of God
I got swallowed by a whale for
All the junk I’ve handed on.

I washed up on the seashore
Where I saw the ones we’ve bound
In a trail of lonely exiles
Off the road for being found

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

What if grace was never rationed
What if love was never dammed
Turning all our anxious grasping
From a fist to an open hand

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

It’s easy when you’re younger
To save your soul by casting stones
Someday that cupboard will swing open
You’re gonna meet those laughing bones

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

There’s a stirring in my spirit
I’ve got hope for what I see
Cause even stumbling love casts out fear
And the truth is gonna set us free

What if Jesus wore a rainbow
What if God wiped out the line
What if Christians asked forgiveness
From the ones we’ve left behind.

What if everything was different
What if all that I had told you was wrong?

What if Jesus wore a rainbow
For the ones we’ve left behind.

Something worth saving (the Octain Refrain)

Before you start to save my soul
from hell, it’s hardly worth it yet.
There so much life I want to get

to, if you’d spare the time. My goal
is this: to take a week to break
the rules. And laugh. I want to roll

back here sky-high on being whole,
before you start to save my soul.

. . . . .

Sometime last year, I ran into the poetic work of Luke Prater.  He writes a great blog under the title WordSalad.  Well worth your time checking him out.  The Octain Refrain is one of Luke’s creations, and I find it a fascinating form within which to write. 

It has eight lines, arranged as two tercets followed by a couplet.  Each line has eight syllables, normally in iambic or trochaic meter (but it’s also OK just to count syllables if you prefer).  The last line is a repeat of the first line, as much as possible.

The rhyme scheme is as follows:
A-b-b
a-c/c-a  [note the middle line here has a mid-line rhyme:c-c]
b-A

 or, alternatively

A
b-b-A
c/c-a-b
A

A bit confusing just to read the rubric.  Probably easier to read a couple of examples to see how it works in practice.  The poem I started this post with is an Octain Refrain.  Here’s a link to another, by poet Beth Winter.  Why not try an Octain Refrain yourself?  And drop me, or Luke, a note to say how you get on!

19-12

He wasn’t so complicated, really,
this overgrown kid playing in the barn.
Once when he grew weary of listening
to my sophomoric agonizing,
he challenged me to a game of ping pong.
Who would have thought that this sly old fox had
so much game, as teenagers say today?
He was leading me, nineteen points to twelve,
when suddenly his forehand fell apart.
Taking advantage, I reeled off nine points
in a row and stormed back to victory.
Funny how beating him raised my spirits.
It never occurred to me that a man
of God might be willing to throw a game,
sacrifice himself, so to speak, for me.
When he cleared out his office, he gave me
a small wooden sculpture of a farmer
sowing seed, crouched like a ping pong player,
ready to throw away all that he has.
He wasn’t so complicated, really.

In loving memory of  Herbert Eugene (Gene) Herr, May 11, 1932 – Jan 1, 2012

The banality of evil

(Hannah Arendt has a quote about the banality of evil.  A piece under that title on NPR this week, by Dina Temple Raston and Robert Smith, described the final day of Mohammed Atta, before he hijacked one of the 9/11 planes – so ordinary, staying at a Comfort Inn, getting cash from a Wal Mart…)
  
The banality of evil
The banality of evil
Furrows the soul more than the flow
Of blood from monsters we don’t know.
It’s the neighbor who pays his bill
Washes his face, then takes his place
With those he is about to kill.
The things we share in common show
The banality of evil.

* credit to Luke Prater for this wonderful form

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